People often ask me where we get our ideas for the content we produce here at DLA Ignite.

For many of us it's talking to prospects and clients, the classic way that most "research and development" takes place. 

Social selling as part of the business planning process

I was asked the other day about social selling would be weaved into the sales business planning process, and I wanted to share the answer with you.

I'm taking on a new client and as I often ask "why are you moving ahead with social selling? and what are your key drivers".  This client said that critical for them was measurement, so a connection of social selling with revenue and profit, which is straightforward.  But also, the need to weave social into the management of the sales teams and of the sales teams own management of their territory.

In my days in the world of corporate this would be called a quarterly business review (QBR).

What is a QBR and or an account review?

This would often take place at sales team level, for example the team focused selling into "Media, Retail and Distribution" (MRD) or "Services, Technology and Construction" (STC).  I'm sure you have your own vertical make up and three letter acronyms (TLAs).

You can use a version of this for account reviews (reviewing one account) or territory reviews (where people have multiple accounts).

While I've built and run QBRs for sales teams before, a man cannot be an island so I called upon the help of David Watts, who is a good friend of mine and helps companies run QBRs and account reviews as a living.

My question to David was "what do you think a QBR looks like in a digital world?"and his answer was

Account Plan:

1. Overview slide of key pieces of information.... 

Organisations, industry, size of business (number of employees, turnover), business drivers, challenges and timeline of previous interactions .... who they are and who they compete with.

It is critical to understand the company and culture, but also what it has been like to do business with them in the past.  For example, they might use external lawyers, which can add three months to the close date.

I would expect the salesperson to follow their accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter and have often looked up the account on Twitter in the review and asked the salesperson "what is the latest announcement from the business and how could we help them?"

2. What is the revenue and profit ambition? this year over the next 3 years?

Critical here is the sales team ambitious enough?  Are the curious enough?

It always interests me if this is "just" a cut and paste or has there been an analysis of the company accounts.  How is what we are doing aligned with the business financial year (FY) business priorities?  Also, how are we aligned with what the business is saying on social media?

A bit of forensic accounting does not go amiss as well as understanding of the budget cycles.

3. Depending on organisation size: give a summary of the revenue trends by type for each part of that organisation and application

For cloud, what is the ARR (annual recurring revenue), what is the support, consulting and hardware opportunity?

It maybe that the business is decentralised, this will impact on who we are connected to where and this will impact on the decision making process. 

4.  SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)

Out of any SWOT should be an action plan, how will you consolidate the strengths, mitigate the weaknesses, exploit the opportunities and snuff out the threats?  This may require help from different parts of the business, so call that out.

5. Summary of influence map

This needs to itemise, who we are connected to, who we are not connected to and how we intend connecting to.  Who we have had a conversation with and who we have a relationship with.

This should, of course of highlight the LinkedIn relationships are.

David makes the comment "I am usually searching on my phone at this point to check!"

In the past, legacy sales methods like cold calling and email have hindered our ability to scale across an organisation, now social selling enables us as salespeople to build relationships right across an organisation from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low.  We often talk about Eric Doyle of the DLA Ignite team who often has over 1,000 connections in his target account.

If a sales team (note I'm talking team not a single person) has less than 10 connections, they would usually get kicked out of the meeting.  We are currently transforming a supply chain software company and they say 100 people will be involved in the decision making process.  The sales team need to be connected to over 100 people per account in this case.

Don't forget that influence often comes from outside the company.

6. Action plan around relationships who, what, where, when, why (the 5 Ws) 

While social will enable you to build relationships at scale, what is the plan off of social?

In the current economic climate, people's positions can be a little precarious, you therefore need to mitigate the risk of your economic buyer or sponsor leaving the business by having more than one.  There would be nothing worse than getting all the way through the sales process only to find your project sponsor has left the business. 

7. Competitive landscape summary: where the competition are; how to mitigate 

This should also include a review of the competition from a social prospective.  Are they social selling? If not then this gives us a competitive advantage which we can use.  With us being able to understand the culture of the competition by looking at them on social, what can we understand about the competition?

8 Business issues, challenges, drivers vs your solution

It is from this you would build out your opportunity map.

As well as understanding the challenges, what are the priorities?  A company can see there is a business issue, but are they willing to put budget to it?

What are we going to do to create content that plays to these issues?  If our sales team (note I'm talking a sales team) has deep penetration in the account, what content and themes to play in the account so that the business sees our content and this will then play out to our influence? 

9. Cross Sell and upsell Summary 

What are the cross sell and upsell opportunities and the timescales.  What are the relationships needed on LinkedIn and the support you need from within the business to help?

10. Senior executive (exec) engagement plan

What does the salesperson need from the senior execs.  Word to the wise, social selling enables us to get higher than cold calling and email, so in the past sales may have expected senior execs to build relationships with senior execs.  You should still do this as it consolidates relationships in an account, but sales people need to be "walking the digital corridors" and connecting and having conversations via social media at a senior level.

This engagement plan will also include the content that will be required to influence the senior exec team.  Here at DLA Ignite one of our target accounts had the business issue of being able to grow their international business.  So we created content and promoted it on LinkedIn about this business problem, we then got inbound from the CEO of that business and we have an ongoing pursuit. 

David's final words were

"Social isn't separated .... needs to be embedded in each of the areas!"

Hope you found this useful and start to understand that social selling isn't about "wasting time on social" it's a strategic imperative to your business planning process. 

It is with social selling that you will increase your revenues and profits, it will also enable you to sell more and sell higher .... keeping your win rate up and your forecast more accurate.